|What does a lady do on a warm spring morning in|
Southern California's foothill mountains? Why learn to
make a good healthy wheat bread of course. Doesn't everyone?
I'm not sure where she came up with the driving time, but it had to be from Crow GPS, since the distance was obviously measured in "as the crow flies" miles. Getting out of San Diego was the easy part. Head east on the freeway and then veer left at El Cajon toward the unincorporated village of Crest. Even that part wasn't too bad as the double lane road was paved and while it was a little twisty, it didn't keep me from admiring the scenery.
The closer to got to our destination the more twisty the road got. It still wasn't bad till the road turned to one-lane gravel. That's when the zig-zagging grew worse and likely would still have been fine except for the rapid gain in elevation. The roadway has been well maintained and to be truthful, I was glad I wasn't the one driving. I had enough to do just making sure she stayed in the middle of the narrow hairpin road. I was also thanking the Lord that it was a fine day with no rain spitting on us as had been happening as we'd left San Diego. My sister is brave and will drive in almost any weather. I'm the coward who stays home and watches from behind the curtain.
|The barn houses the alpaca|
fiber in assorted colors, the yarn shop,
and the dying stations.
Barbara ushered us all into her dining room, large enough to hold a long sturdy table with twelve chairs around and no crowding. I felt like I had a seat at some medieval king's table. Each of us had a cup of coffee and a giant size cinnamon roll topped with frosting unlike what my mom made and I was so intent on eating the roll that I forgot to ask what the frosting had been made of but I'm almost sure I tasted cream cheese in there somewhere. Or maybe yogurt. The Greek kind. Whatever it was, I scarfed up every crumb.
Barbara asked around the table for each one to tell their bread making experience and why we'd come to the class. A few of us had grown up with nothing but homemade bread in our lives; most had tried their hand at making the blessed loaf and failed; a few had never even tried but wanted to learn. With introductions made, she ushered us into her kitchen, so big it held not only a giant-sized island, but room all around for each of us to have a front-row seat. I mean standing place.
I figured Barbara would begin by showing us how to make bread. That isn't what happened. First she explained that because store bought flour isn't their choice for a simpler life, she buys twenty-five pound bags of raw southern white wheat and grinds it herself, making six loaves at a time. Once I understood the size of her family, and most of them guys, I knew she had to make a lot of bread at a time and most likely, more than once a week. The wheat mill was LOUD, making it almost impossible to hear any conversation. It also seemed to take quite a while to grind five cups of wheat into flour, but perhaps it only seemed like that since it was near impossible to chat with the one standing beside you with the mill going.
When Barbara deemed the work had finished, she shut down the mill, removed the large basket, and showed us all the smooth, nearly cream-colored flour. I've baked almost all of my life from sixth grade on up and this soft winter wheat did not even look like any kind of wheat flour. It was light, fluffy, and almost looked like it would be fun to play in. And if her smallest kids are in the kitchen at bread making time, I would hazard a guess that little hands dip into that flour just like my sisters and I used to do.
From the mill, she moved to her bread making machine. Now let
me explain that her machine doesn't turn out a loaf of bread as most of us would think of something called a bread machine. What her very large machine does it blend it, knead it, and keeps going until Barbara deems it's finished it's job. The dough looked like what my mom used to make once a week on baking day when she turned out six loaves of bread plus assorted rolls like cinnamon, pecan, cloverleaf, parker house, and crescents. By hand. No kneading machines in those days. We sisters would smell the bread before we even got close to home. And we always knew where to find that which mom deemed an after school treat. And heaven help us if we took anything from the dining room table where she had everything else laid out on white dish towels in order to cool. When I was little there was no freezer. We had an ice box in our kitchen and I've often wondered how mom kept the bread soft for a whole week. Wished I'd remembered to ask her.
|Barbara's mixing machine makes enough|
dough for six loaves of bread and/or rolls.
|Fresh dough ready to be|
made into loaves and rolls
|Pizza rolls made that morning|
and those from the class, ready
for the oven.
We stood around the kitchen island as Barbara loaded the bread into her warming oven to let it raise. In less than fifteen minutes she was putting the bread into the oven. I was astonished at how high each loaf has risen in such a short time. Once she closed the oven door and set the timer, she announced that we were off to the shop where they keep their stash of alpaca yarn. As avid knitters, my sister and I had come to see the yarns, but we were both glad the bread was thrown in because even though we've both made bread nearly all of our adult lives, we learned some new tricks that made the class so worthwhile.
|I had visions of my sister|
being toppled by the wheelchair
and me being nothing but a wild
streak headed for the barn.
|The youngest baby stayed close to|
mom and never came near the fence.
She sort of hid behind the feed bin.
|Does anything top fresh made|
bread? Yes, getting to take
a whole loaf home.
This is a day out I'd recommend to everyone who wants to combine bread making and luscious yarn and adorable alpacas into one fun event. If this sounds like something you'd like to do, contact the Davies at A Simpler Time Alpacas & Mill; 1802 Alta Place; El Cajon CA 92021 or call (619) 579-9114. The fee is $10--which you recover with the gift shop certificate for the same amount. And just so you know, each class is limited to twelve. Altogether, this is in a win-win adventure. My sister and I had a great time and now my other sister and one niece want to go so it looks like we'll be back. I'm not sure they're prepared for the fun-loving Legler girls. We've never been known for our shyness.
I do suggest wearing sturdy shoes if you want to see the store and the baby alpaca. The gravel road down to it is rutted and quite steep. Tennis shoes slip. Wear shoes that won't send you sailing or flat on your behind.
Thanks to Sheila Allen, Sonia White, and A Simpler Time for the photos
copyright by Sandra L Keith May 2016
None of the photos or text may be used without permission.